I think this article by Srinidhi Raghavan raises some really interesting points, starting with these three reasons why it might not be as simple as good vs bad touch:
“First, what is “good” touch? What is “bad”? How is a child supposed to determine this, and how do we teach them this without being broad and prescriptive in our explanation? One of my own fears about the way we advocate for good and bad touch is that the child may begin associating the touching of “private” parts with “bad”, and – therefore, all touching – with abuse. This association, even if made loosely, has confused many kids who I have worked with or spoken to.
Second, considering that the perpetrators of abuse are often known to the victim, teaching kids this “known” vs “unknown” person dichotomy is pretty useless.
Third, it is hard to assess how a child, any child, would respond to touch that is unwelcome. If it comes from a known person or is followed by a lot of grooming (that is, creating a bond and gaining a child’s trust in order to sexually abuse them), the child may not be in a place to identify the touch as “bad”. The experience of abuse itself sometimes makes it hard to not internalise shame – classifying it as “bad” only adds more guilt and shame into the mix, because a person may have experienced pleasure in a ‘wrong’ touch, which painfully complicates their sexual and psychological universe.”
Now, I don’t have children, but I am a survivor, so my take on this may not be overly well-informed from a parental perspective, but as a survivor looking at some of what we teach kids, I’ve always been of the impression that something simplistic like a good touch versus bad touch curriculum is probably effective for very young children. For example, it’s a way to give a 4-5 year old a reason to not just accept any adult touching them in anyway, without having to get into the specifics of abuse, let alone consent, etc.
Obviously, as kids get older, we should probably educate them in more contextual ways about these issues, because there is a lot more to it. I would agree that there is much more that anyone should learn about consent and unwanted touch than just some overly simplistic rules about what is good touch and what isn’t. Just maybe not until they can grasp some of that complexity.
So I don’t mind good touch vs. bad touch as a beginner step, and as something better than not talking about it at all, even if I don’t think it’s the end-all solution.
For me, the real solution lies in honest, open, constant communication between parents, and other adults, and kids. Kids who have a safe environment to share their thoughts and feelings don’t keep a lot of secrets, and that’s what we want. If we know what’s happening to kids, as adults we can determine what is appropriate and what isn’t instead of asking children to do it for themselves.
I’d like to see a lot more of that, period.
What do you think is effective for kids, of any age? If you have kids what are you teaching them?
Go read the whole thing, there is much more at the link